Updating The GreySheet?

One Member's Opinion – February 2024

In the 40+ years that I have been weighing and measuring my food from the GreySheet, without exception, no matter what, I have often been asked, by GreySheeters and "civilians" alike, why our community has not updated the food plan in all this time. I have gotten comments such as:

"They didn't know about "X" back when the plan was written."

"I heard that someone involved in the writing of the GreySheet said they had intended to include "X" but forgot to add it to the food list."

"But "X" is such a nutritionally sound food – it's healthy to have it in your diet."

"You know that "X is just a cross between foods on the GreySheet." or "Z is in the same family as a food on the GreySheet."

"You should be able to eat "X" – it has the same sugar and carbohydrate count as other foods on the sheet.

All reasonable considerations under certain circumstances.

If I simply had a physical condition, say diabetes or hypoglycemia, my primary concern would be how my body/blood sugar responded to different foods. If my blood levels/physical markers were acceptable when I ate a certain food, I could include that item on my plan.

If I simply had a weight problem, my primary concern would be my caloric intake. If I were overweight, I would need to decrease the calories consumed in a day. If I were underweight, increase them.

But here's the thing. I am a compulsive eater. A food addict. My problem is physical, mental, and spiritual and my solution must address my ADDICTION.

So here are some things that I know about addiction:

  • 1.Addiction is a disease that tells me I don't have a disease. It tells me I can handle foods that I can't. As I am laying in a pool of desperation, it tells me "It's not that bad."
  • 2.Addiction is a disease of "More." If one is good, one more would be better. Or maybe two more, or three, or a hundred.
  • 3.Addiction lies. It tells me that a little exception can't hurt me. It ignores that one exception ultimately takes another – and then another.
  • 4.Addiction is self-sabotage. Addicts find out what works. Then they stop doing it.
  • 5.Addiction thrives on isolation. It keeps me from asking for help. It tells me I can figure it out on my own. It shames me for being weak-willed and defective.

The only thing that has ever successfully treated my food addiction has been SURRENDER to the GREYSHEET COMMUNITY. Surrender has meant letting go of all my own ideas and trusting in a way that has worked for countless others. The GreySheet Community is a group of addicts who have come together for one reason – recovery. It consists of people who can recognize my disease when I cannot, and whose combined power is greater than my addiction.

I came to the Cambridge GreySheet community in 1982. Food was destroying my life, and I was consumed with dieting, controlling, obsessing, binging, vomiting, and hating myself. I got a sponsor. As soon as she gave me the GreySheet I thought:

  • 1.This looks like death.
  • 2.There is no food on this sheet.
  • 3.A person cannot exist without the sliced carbohydrate.
  • 4.I cannot possibly go for hours without eating something.
  • 5.Where are the snacks and "free foods?"
  • 6.What is Plan B? Anything would be better than this.

I did GreySheet for a week and then left to find an easier, softer way. A few months later, when my eating, obsession, and desperation had become worse than ever, I let go of all my objections and simply did what those GreySheeters advised. I weighed and measured my 3 meals a day only from foods on that sheet. I committed those meals to my sponsor every day and did not eat in between them, no matter what. And my recovery began.

Since then, I have learned:

  • 1.It's about the food – The GreySheet offers me choices of foods that are safe for me – they don't trigger physical craving or mental obsession (and if any foods on the GreySheet make me physically or mentally uncomfortable, I don't have to eat them.)
  • 2.It's not only about the food – Once I receive my precious freedom from food addiction, I am finally available to have a life. Whether a certain food is or is not on the food plan, whether I could potentially handle that food, whether it should have been on the original sheet, whether it could be nutritionally beneficial - these thoughts keep my head in the food and in the debating society. My recovery is about surrendering my will, not about expanding my food plan. My recovery is about expanding my life – my spiritual, emotional, creative, professional, social, personal life. It is about becoming the person I was intended to be, the person who was derailed by food addiction.
  • 3.Nutrition is a relative concept. Am I to compare eating on the GreySheet with eating what the experts deem the nutritional ideal? My disease will have me forget that if I were not eating on the GreySheet, I would not be eating the nutritional ideal. If I were not eating on the GreySheet, I would be binging on bags and boxes of sugars and carbs. As much as I might not like this truth, these are my two choices: GreySheet or Insanity With Food. My history has proven this fact over and over.

Clearly the GreySheet is not a perfect food plan, and it may not work for everyone. Are there other foods that could have been included? Probably. Will I spend any time thinking, debating, or fighting about that? Absolutely not. I have received a miraculous reprieve from the grips of compulsive eating thanks to my surrender to this grey piece of paper and the support of an amazing community of similarly surrendered people. I am truly free from obsession and craving. I taste my food, enjoy my food, and get to eat three glorious guilt-free meals every day. I am in a regular body that stays basically the same size month to month. Every medical issue I have encountered has been adequately addressed within the boundaries of the GreySheet – including two abstinent pregnancies. I am part of a community of like-minded people who are committed to Twelve-Step recovery and becoming the highest version of themselves possible.

I finally have peace – in my body, mind, and soul. Am I going to give all this up for a fruit that never made it to GreySheet food list? That would be literally insane.

They say, "It works if we work it."

They say, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

They say, "Nothing tastes as good as abstinence feels."

I believe all of this because I have lived it.

And having been abstinent for 40+ years, I have also lived the disease in all its sneaky disguises – one of which is seeking to change the food plan. Let's remember that there is no magic in any specific food out there. The answer lies in the unity of a community committed to one answer, surrendered to its beauty and its flaws, understanding that our unity is our protection against a disease that is always looking for a way back in, and celebrating that we can do together what we cannot do alone.

I wish you freedom from food craving and obsession, joy in daily living, and yummy abstinent meals – all priceless gifts of surrender to the GreySheet.

No Matter What!

Abstinence date: 4.16.82 

What "It's the food" means to me

Hi, everyone. My name is [Anonymous] and I'm a compulsive overeater.  I weigh and measure 3 meals a day off the Grey Sheet, write them down, and commit them to my sponsor.  I don't eat anything in between meals no matter what.  Abstinence is the most important thing in my life without exception, and a day at a time I work to put my program first. Before GS, I was in denial.  I didn't want to believe that I was a compulsive overeater, even though I'd never had a normal relationship with food and was pursuing ever richer, sweeter, bigger, more, more more in an attempt to get the same rush I'd once gotten from something small and simple. Oh, and my life was falling apart and I hated myself.  But no, that couldn't be because I was a compulsive overeater.  The addicts in my family were my parents, not me.  If I just dealt with my family of origin (Al-Anon/ACOA) issues, I'd stop overeating and lose weight. It's a variation on the theme I've heard from others in the rooms: the belief that if I could just get spiritual enough, I'd stop eating compulsively. But I, at least, can't talk to God with my mouth full.  As long as certain substances are in my body, I'm going to react to them in a programmed way: a rush followed by a low and a craving to repeat the cycle.  Until I put down the food, the only response I have to *any* event or emotion is to eat.

There are some things it's not safe for me to eat at all, because of what they do to my brain, body, and spirit. I don't cease to be an addict when I'm abstinent--I'm still pretty compulsive, and I want things my way and right now.  But I don't have to act out, either with food or with anything else.  And I can develop other methods to cope with feelings and events. Human existence has a lot of loss and pain in it.  Everyone experiences grief, anger, fear, frustration.  Some people go through things which are truly horrific.  But none of those things is the cause of compulsive overeating.  The compulsion comes from that combination of an allergy of the body and an obsession of the mind described in AA's Big Book. I've had a much more emotional day today than I expected or wanted to.  Somebody pushed my buttons a couple of hours ago and I found myself furious and sobbing, balling up tissues and tossing them across the room at the wastebasket and forcibly restraining myself from saying things I'd have to make amends for later.  That outburst, and my efforts to recover from it, have put me behind schedule and given me a stuffy nose.  I'm still feeling irritable. But here's the amazing thing. I didn't eat. I didn't even *think* about eating. It's not life which makes me overeat.  It's the food.  That doesn't change the fact that the 12 steps, the program, are about how to live abstinently, not how to *get* abstinent.  But you can't work the Steps in AA if you're drinking, and you can't work the steps in GS if you're eating.


Anonymous, December 1, 2005
In California, Abstinent since October 7, 1990

Keeping it Green, Gratitude

Greetings, fellow travelers.  [Anonymous] in NYC here - still w&m'g w/o exception my 3 meals/day off the GS, after writing them down and committing them to my sponsor.  I don't eat between no matter what, and I put my abstinence first. I just received an email from someone (and I paraphrase here) who shares that, after a short period of abstinence, she begins to feel great, optimistic, and confident, and to forget all the pain it took to bring her to the state of desperation necessary to get her "to face the tragedy of 4 ounces," and to find the willingness to get started on the GS.  She proposes that writing about it every day may be the answer -- to "keeping it green." That's a good description of the "Built-In Forgetter" that is ALWAYS a part of addiction.  I try to cultivate a grasp of the CONCEPTS of addiction, and although there's that great line in the Big Book:  "self-knowledge availed us nothing," I do think there are salient facts about how the mind (and body) of the addict works that it is important to keep practicing. It really helped me to hear at my second AA meeting (Feb. 24, 1973) that THIS IS THE DISEASE THAT TELLS ME I DON'T HAVE A DISEASE.

For some yet unknown reason, once a person has crossed the line into addiction, forever after, their wiring is altered, so that where a 'normal' person has the instinct to survive, the addict has the warped "instinct" to survive BY RETURNING TO THE SUBSTANCE.  The substance which ONCE was so helpful, ONCE was so comforting, but now is so destructive.  There is a deep conviction -- operating on the unconscious, automatic level, as well as sometimes surfacing into consciousness, that "If I don't eat, I'LL DIE.  So just this one time...." I liken it to "a flaw in the hard drive."  No matter how horrendous my suffering became later through ABUSE of the FOODS WE AVOID, no matter how much corrective software I install on my computer, eventually it will all be corrupted by the flaw in the hard drive, and I WILL eat again, unless I download fresh software on a daily basis.  Fresh software only comes from OUTSIDE of my computer (brain), not INSIDE.  That means I have to keep returning to MEETINGS, MEETINGS, MEETINGS.  The software I need comes only from my personal participation in the recovery fellowship where MY story can help somebody else, and THEIR stories can touch me anew. Sitting alone and writing out my story for myself -- that can be useful.  It's a useful exercise.  BUT IT IS NOT ENOUGH.  My own story doesn't become real ENOUGH for me until I share it with another suffering compulsive overeater, and another c.o. shares his story with ME. I don't know why - AND I DON'T NEED TO KNOW WHY - I sometimes resist going to meetings and doing the necessary daily activities for the maintenance and growth of my spiritual condition.  ALL I NEED TO KNOW, IS THAT (for this particular compulsive overeater) IF I WANT TO REMAIN ABSTINENT, I NEED TO KEEP DOING THESE THINGS - BOTH WHEN I FEEL LIKE IT AND WHEN I DON'T.  BOTH WHEN IT'S CONVENIENT, AND WHEN IT'S NOT CONVENIENT.  When it's fun (which it often is), and when it's torture (which it sometimes is). A little footnote here on gratitude - a brilliant friend of mine recently articulated so well: "GRATITUDE DOESN'T KEEP ME ABSTINENT."  Brilliant, indeed. How many pink-cloud newcomers have been absolutely delirious with gratitude, only to return, BAFFLED, to the food?  O YEAH - it's great to be abstinent.  It's great to get off all sort of medications as one's health dramatically improves.  It's great to be a smaller size.  It's great to love one's GS food.  It's great to be more present to family, friends, and work.  Those great things are NOT ENOUGH. GUESS WHAT!!!!  If I as an addict/ c.o. don't PUT IN THE FOOTWORK to stay vitally connected (through participation in the recovery community) to the horror of the food AND the PAIN, YES, THE GROWING PAINS OF ABSTINENCE -- I believe I WILL EAT AGAIN.  And all the gratitude in the world can't stop it. Well. Thanks for listening.  I need to share with you guys what keeps me abstinent, about whom I care (sometimes more than I am able to care about myself); and I need to keep these concepts in the front of my addict brain. 
Anonymous in NYC

More Mean & Lean Tough Talk

[Anonymous] in NYC here, to share my experience and strength, and where I get my hope. "It's always the bitchy women who get the nice men," I observed when I was full of patience (and enabling) and stuffing my face, and attracting the Users and the Losers.  Well, now I'm the bitchy woman, and I'm abstinent, and I have possibly as nice a guy for a husband (of 16 years) as any who ever walked the face of the earth. Got sober in AA 27.6 years ago.  Binge-free 18.9 years.  Abstinent on the GS 11.6 years.  Lots of time watching what works and what doesn't.  I went to my first OA mtg in 1972, when I was in Al-Anon -- before I got sober a few months later.  At that time, pretty much everyone in the room was abstinent.  The only food plan was the Greysheet.  There were two OA meetings a week in NYC.  The talk was pretty tough.  Most of the members had come from AA, where, at that time, it was very common to say to a newcomer "Take the cotton out of your ears, and put it in your mouth." I returned to OA in 1975, when, 2 years sober, I had quit smoking 4 packs of cigarettes a day, and my food problem REALLY took off.  By then, OA had gotten lots bigger in NYC.  There were alternate food plans (the Orange Sheet, the Blue Sheet, -- and as a friend on GS says -- the Bullsheet).  A lot less recovery, but a lot more "LOVE" talk.  And a lot more "gentleness" and excuses for taking a little extra food, or going off the food plan.  After all, "you had a hard time...."

As years went by -- and there were about 7 of them before I was able to actually put down the food -- I watched the blossoming in the regular rooms of OA of so much so-called LOVE, and so much GENTLENESS!  I watched the Big Book and Step workshops multiply.  I watched overweight people leading these Big Book and Step workshops.  I saw very little abstinence.  I watched the ABSTINENT people in NYC regular OA (maybe one in 30?) being very low-keyed, very quiet.  I STUDIED them, because they were my only hope.  The ones with a few years were never available to sponsor.  They didn't laugh.  They rarely smiled.  It was damn hard being abstinent in a room full of food-drunk people dumping about everything, except about not picking up that first compulsive bite, no matter what.  [In AA meetings, there's a convention that "if you've been drinking or used any mood-changers today, we ask you not to share in the meeting -- but rather, approach one of us after the meeting to speak with us."] When I found the small Cambridge GreySheet Group in NYC in 1989, I was "circling the drain" -- coming perilously close to a return to bingeing.  At that time, there were some pretty hard-talking people with relatively long abstinence here.  I was attracted to them, because they were clear as a bell, and they always seemed to take responsibility for themselves -- something I find immensely refreshing, appealing, and inspiring.  FOR ME, IT'S A PROMISE OF RECOVERY! These abstinent greysheeters were NOT attributing their recovery to the LOVE they received.  They were attributing it the CLARITY and BOUNDARIES they were shown and guided to implement.  Clarity, truth, boundaries -- you have these, the love takes care of itself.  THAT gave me HOPE -- that had the ring of TRUTH to it, for me.  A message with depth and substance.  After all, if I'm a VICTIM, and I give power to those mean bad guys the world is well supplied with, then I'm more or less condemned to remain hurt, abused, and in the food.  Being the supersensitive person that I am, if I had waited till someone was nice and gentle and loving to me before I started to take responsibility for myself, and picked up the set of tools that is laid at my feet, it just might never have happened! One of the most empowering things I heard in an AA meeting in my very early sobriety was this.  A newcomer was looking for a kind person they could trust, to help them so they could stay sober.  One of my sober role models shared in response that sooner or later everyone will let you down, because that's how humans are.  Trust the PROGRAM.  Trust a Higher Power.  But don't wait for other people's behavior to change, before you decide to bite the bullet and take responsibility for yourself and your alcoholism. Don't pick up that first drink, no matter what, and trust that Power greater than yourself to protect you from all dire consequences of not drinking.  Weigh and measure that food:  FACE THE TRAGEDY OF 4 OUNCES - and trust that you won't starve to death, go insane, or die of the pain.  Trust that those who have gone before are telling the truth, when they say that there is LIFE on the other side of jumping off that cliff. "Once you have faced the tragedy of 4 ounces, you can face just about anything." That's my experience.  Making the total commitment - just for today - to W&M my 3 abstinent GS meals No Matter What -- somehow, magically, starts to empower me an OTHER areas of my life. One of my favorite things I heard said by the "toughest" long-term abstinent person in NYC at that time was, "The most spiritual thing I do in a day is to weigh and measure my food.  And it's also the most loving.  Also the SEXIEST." With certain sponsees who keep slipping, it's very common for a sponsor to forestall talk about the details of one's EMOTIONAL life until a sponsee has 90 days back to back of GS abstinence.  It's a very clear way of saying:  NOTHING that's going on in your life can make you take that first compulsive bite, if you put your abstinence FIRST. I tell my sponsees:  Get Abstinent First -- Then Maybe We'll Talk About "Love" -- which is a lot more elusive and harder to pin down than 3 weighed and measured meals.  I'm very grateful to say that my life is FLOODED with love.  That would never happen before abstinence, because I wasn't truly capable of letting love in, or of GIVING love when I was in the food. Also - once the food's in place, once one has a few months of abstinence, the FOG begins to clear.  Once a person stops throwing the monkey-wrench of non-abstinent food into everything, all the things they were so concerned about before are bound to be seen in a whole new light.  THEN it's really time to start sorting the life issues out.  Then a person has the clarity to do it. I have little patience for the "life problems" of someone in the food.  I'm not a therapist.  Thank the HP, this is not a social club.  I'm here to be abstinent, and to help others find out how I do it.  I certainly AM interested in the experiences of people who are ready to GO through those experiences WITHOUT TAKING THE FIRST COMPULSIVE BITE. When a person -- even a very nice, good person -- is just looking for company and a sympathetic ear while they experiment, diet, and try to figure out if they might decide to W&M w/o exception some day -- I'm not the person to do it around.  I will welcome them with open arms when they make up their mind to do what I do -- NOT for a lifetime, but for just for now.  To give it their ALL, just for now. The Big Book is wonderfully clear on this point.  P. 96 "Search out another alcoholic and try again.  You are sure to find someone desperate enough to accept with eagerness what you offer.  We find it is a waste of time to keep chasing a man who cannot or will not work with you.  If you leave such a person alone, he may soon become convinced that he cannot recover by himself.  To spend too much time on any one situation is to deny some other alcoholic an opportunity live and be happy." This is the longest share I've ever seen on the Greynet.  If you made it this far, WOW.  Thanks.  Most sincerely, w&m'g 3 meals a day w/o exception off the gs - by the grace of the HP, and the example (both good and bad) of this GS community. 

Anonymous in NYC
(originally written around 9/13/2000, and in April '05, celebrated 16 years of B2B abstinence!)

Open Letter To Greynet About 'Cambridge' In The GS Name

[I'm posting this to the GreyNet because a very nice individual I know expressed to me personally her unhappiness about our using Cambridge in our name.  She perceived it as confusing and elitist.  This is the answer I sent her, and I hope it helps.] I'm really sorry you have bad feelings about the name "Cambridge" attached to Grey Sheet.  It surprises me, because I experience it so differently.  As they say "that's what makes horse races." I hate to think that you are feeling disenfranchised or offended.  I remember you as a lovely person.  I can see from your letter that you are caring deeply about the sick and suffering newcomer.  I believe the most caring thing I can do for the newcomer is to give a clear message of recovery, no sugar coating.  Sometimes people coming in from regular OA can be so indoctrinated with this "unconditional love" talk, which can sometimes tend to be more like "unlimited enabling." I know people new to the community are confused by the name "Cambridge" - but newcomers ALWAYS have a lot to learn, and experience a lot of discomfort till they catch up with the "jargon" and special uses of terms.  It's true in AA, true in all the 12-step fellowships. Myself, I gratefully look to the people with long term abstinence, because I know these are the people who can share with me "what works" in the long run.  I've been seriously involved with OA for 25 years, although my first OA meeting was 29 years ago (in NYC).  [Sober 28 years as of 2/24/01, binge-free 19 years, and GS B/B 11.9 years abstinent.]

Aside from the GS community that has roots in Cambridge (but now has sizable offshoots in Chicago, Ann Arbor, NYC, Tel Aviv, LA, and several other areas), I don't know of any GROUP of people with a significant percentage of old-timers who have years of abstinence in the 20's and high teens. When I found the GS community in NYC, we just called it GS -- as did the GS people in Cambridge!  But as time goes by, and OA-ers are rediscovering the need for food plans, there's a veritable GS revival going on.  But now lots of the "GS's" have added xxx, yyy, and who knows what. We could perhaps say "our community uses the 1972 edition of the GS with certain changes in philosophy and form - i.e. we don't stop committing our food after 30 days, we never stop W&M'g it, we don't eat 'diet' foods, it's a way of life, a day at a time -- and only the portions change, NOT the foods we eat when we get to maintenance.  AND most of us make a some sort of statement of what we do with our food and of our commitment to GS abstinence (by our definition) at the beginning of our shares which we usually call "the mantra", to put up front who we are and what we do." "And our groups read the Group Purpose statement, written for use in the early Cambridge meetings started by George and Sally D and a handful of others who said 'What we need is AA for the food!' - We put a primary value on ABSTINENCE -- the first and most fundamental piece of recovery, the practice of Step One, which we believe must precede working the other 11 steps -- ABSTINENCE as the focal point of recovery from compulsive overeating.  ALL these things and many others distinguish us from HOW and from OA." We could say all that -- but what's wrong with just using "Cambridge" as the shorthand way to say all that?  After all, we DO owe our highly successful approach to the small group that got started around 1975 -1978 in Cambridge.  Several of those people have moved to other states (and countries), and started groups based on the same principles -- it's from their approach that we get our strength -- not from the HOW people, or the handful of regular OA-ers who may indeed have beautiful abstinence.... but they haven't been able to formulate a message that enables significant numbers of other people to latch onto long-term abstinence. If people want what we have, truly, wisdom suggests that they do as we do.  Newcomers in AA who make it surely need to humbly learn from the old-timers.  How could it possibly be any different here? Our listowner doesn't really make decisions on her own.  She regularly consults with several other long-term abstinent people before taking a stand.  Putting these questions up to the general membership -- many of whom don't have a clue about how to get abstinent, would be like inviting regular OA in to run our business meetings. Have you checked out [another "GreySheet" online group]?  When I looked into it for a few weeks a while back, their Moderator was literally on day one every few days.  Yet she insisted on "love and tolerance" for whatever version of GS anybody wanted to be on.  People were looking for sponsors and guidance, and there really wasn't any there.  I much prefer the elder-guided way the GreyNet is handled. In AA, in NYC, often the Chairperson or Secretary reads a statement at the beginning of the meeting, asking those who have had a drink or a mood changing drug to refrain from sharing in the meeting, encouraging them to approach members at the break or after the meeting.  It's not really necessary in OA to ask people in the food to refrain from speaking or sharing at all -- but certainly for recovery to prevail, I believe we need serious guidance from the long-term abstinent members. I am eager to hear from you what you think about these ideas.  Maybe you know something I don't know. 

Best wishes and love,

Anonymous in NYC - I do GS no matter what. 

Physical, Mental, and Spiritual Solution

I am still weighing and measuring without exception my 3 beautiful abstinent GreySheet meals each day, one day at a time.  Because I'm an addict (and as such, fundamentally a sneak, cheat and liar around my food), I continue to commit my food daily to my food sponsor.  I write it down, and keep the 3 by 5 spiral notebook where I have written it in my kitchen - set up like a little easel, so that while I prepare my meals, I check and make sure I've got it exactly as committed.  I don't make decisions about my food on my own.  It is extremely easy for me to lie to myself about my food - but it is extremely uncomfortable for me to lie to another person. The way the Cambridge GreySheet program has been passed down to me via my sponsor, and the long-term abstinent GSers in NYC where I live, is that we continue to commit our food daily to our sponsors, indefinitely, a day at a time.  I know this is a major factor supporting my abstinence because it helps me stay honest around my food.  I do this, and all the other things I do to support my abstinence, because I am a food addict. I am "carbohydrate sensitive," so the low-carbohydrate GreySheet food plan is a big help.  But I am also just plain addicted to the process of eating.  So the fact that we weigh and measure, a day at a time, indefinitely - so that all my meals have a clear-cut beginning and a clear-cut ending - this is another huge factor in protecting my abstinence. Because addiction is a disease - progressive, fatal and incurable - there is no way that I will ever become "normal" around food.  It is not because I am spiritually unfit that I have this disease (although living in active addiction certainly corrodes moral fiber).  And no amount of spiritual work, no amount of lifting of my defects of character by my loving higher power, is ever going to make me into a normal eater.  No more will I ever safely take a drink of alcohol, or safely use recreational drugs. Oh, yes, because this fatal, progressive, and incurable illness is three-fold (mental, physical and spiritual), the solution with which I can hope to arrest this illness in the long term (one day at a time) must also be three-fold.

The physical part of this disease is my abnormal reaction to sugars, grains, and high-carbohydrate foods.  The GreySheet food plan eliminates these foods that trigger an uncontrollable craving in me to get more of the same. The mental part of this disease is the obsession that I can return to eating like a normal person and the delusion, that is a flaw in my hard-drive, that one day, I will become a normal eater.  This part is extremely insidious - even after I become perfectly clear that I can't handle certain foods - that I am beaten bloody by the food - eventually, the old idea will insinuate itself sooner or later, that now I am "cured," I am "different" from the others, that I can handle the food on my own.  The treatment for this mental obsession is continued participation in the GreySheet recovery community - meetings for those of us with meetings available, carrying the message to the overeater who still suffers, and keeping in the forefront for myself what happens to people who fail to continue to participate.  ("We keep going to meetings to find out what happens to people who don't go to meetings.") The spiritual part of this disease, as I understand it, is described in the AA 12 Steps & 12 Traditions as "alcoholic apartness."  Feeling different.  Feeling better than.  Feeling less than.  Isolating.  Various forms of self-centered fears and all sort of judgments against myself and others.  Some common manifestations for the spiritual part of the disease:  self-pity, resentment, jealously, fear, envy, and frustration.  The treatment for this part of the disease is found in the slogans and in the 12 steps.  I believe that newcomers on the GreySheet shouldn't worry too much about the steps in the beginning; just the profound humility that goes into the surrender of planning, committing to a sponsor, and weighing and measuring the food, and not eating in between meals, no matter what, that is a huge spiritual workout in itself. During these first few months, the slogans can be extremely helpful.  Most of them embody the principles of the 12 steps in a first-aid format and are relatively easy to assimilate in the beginning.

  • Easy Does it [Bedroom Slippers];
  • There's Another Meal Coming;
  • One Day At A Time;
  • Keep It Simple;
  • Keep Your Eyes On Your Own Plate;
  • Live and Let Live;
  • You Are As Sick As Your Secrets;
  • Let Go and Let God;
  • Don't Eat No Matter What, to mention a few.
    And especially helpful for overeaters, who hate rejection:
  • This (GS group, AA group, etc.) is not a social club.  It is medicine.
  • It isn't necessary for other members to like me in order to save my life, and I don't need to like them for me to be saving their lives.
At a certain point, of course - and I myself usually recommend that newcomers start after a year of back-to-back GreySheet abstinence - the steps are a really good idea for those who want long-term abstinence.  It says in the Big Book (substitute "food" for "alcohol" and it becomes our basic source for recovery information) that if we fail to enlarge our spiritual life, we are bound to relapse.  The Big Book says the 12 steps are the "recommended" program for recovery.  Heard in an AA meeting:  "Yes, and if you jump out of a plane, it is recommended that you pull the ripcord to open the parachute."  But, again, though the steps become essential, there is no amount of step work, no amount of brilliant psychotherapy, no amount of sanctification, no amount of wisdom that will turn me from a food addict into a normal person around food.  And no number of years wearing my cute little clothes and passing for normal among others will make me normal.  GreySheet meetings, sharing with another compulsive eater to keep it green, and daily practice of the principles of the 12 Steps in all my affairs, this is the only medicine available up to this point in history that has a proven track record of arresting the disease I have for any significant period of time.  This disease is progressive, incurable, and fatal.  Just for today, I am grateful that I have found the medicine to arrest it, and I pray that I may continue in willingness to do so.  
Thanks for listening.  Don't eat no matter what.  Thanks for saving my life. IDENMW.

Anonymous in NYC

Strength of GreySheet Abstinence

Dear GreyNet Family,

In an AARP report I read "the majority of chronic conditions and deaths due to heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes and osteoporosis can be attributed to poor nutrition."  For me, GreySheet Abstinence is preventing diabetes, stroke, cancer, knee replacement, etc., etc.,-- all diseases in my family, from which my family members are now suffering. I am a compulsive overeater who needs GreySheet Abstinence!  Before I came to GreySheet, I had tried variations of all the food plans people want to try to deviate from GreySheet. People don't want to weigh and measure in restaurants or in some other situations.  When I brought this idea home to my husband (after I had been abstinent for a few weeks) my wonderful, logical husband said, "Why is the food any different in a restaurant than at home?"  I would want, as I have seen others do, to eat more and more often in a restaurant until I was having 3 meals a day there--every day!  Or I would be plagued with thoughts about the amounts they served: too much, too little...  People want to use the serving plate in the restaurant as a measurement.  I did that before GreySheet in one of my many efforts to lose weight.  I looked at the amount of food my 5'11" husband put on his plate and put the same amount on my plate.  Of course, I felt deprived, so I kept asking him to go back and get seconds so I could get more.

The weight that looked good on him did NOT look good on me!  That didn't last long! People want to add grains.  In my past I have had many experiences of giving up sugar.  Once when our children were about two and five years old, the whole family went in the kitchen and got every box and bag of food that contained sugar and made a loud game of throwing them all away!  "Sugar! Ugh! Into the trash!"  Of course, the children had a lot of fun with this.  What did I turn to?  Grains!  All natural, organic, health food--that I ate more and more of, that kept the craving alive.  I have weighed and measured grains in Weight Watchers--and obsessed about food every waking hour! I have also tried putting bran in all my food (so it would go out fast and not stick to me), reading the Bible before every meal, and prayer, days and days of prayer! GreySheet Abstinence is the answer to all my prayers--almost 40 years of prayers to be relieved of this suffering.  

Physically, I have an abnormal reaction to sugars, grains and high carbohydrate food.  The GreySheet Food Plan eliminates these foods and thus my uncontrollable craving.  

Mentally: when the physical cravings are gone, my constant mental obsession can be lifted.  Writing my food down and committing it daily to my sponsor also relieves the mental obsession I had all my life.  The "mental twist" I have had that says, "One day I'll be normal with food" is relieved by meetings, by sponsoring, by communicating through GreyNet, by hearing what happens to people who stop supporting our GreySheet Abstinence.  

Spiritually: a new way of life, the 12 Steps, show me a way of life that leads to spiritual renewal.  Though I had never left my faith and was very active in my church, somehow the food and the obsession blocked me from learning how to live. Today I have an incredibly full and fulfilling life because it is a life free of my lifelong, overwhelming obsession with food--a gift, a miracle given me by God. Thanks for listening!  Like you, I weigh and measure 3 meals a day from the GreySheet, write them down, call them into my sponsor, and have nothing in between except coffee, tea, diet soda, or water.  IDENMW! Love, Anonymous

Early Abstinence

Dear Group - Thank God for GreySheet.  I'm still abstinent - on day 86.  This is long-term abstinence for me.  A few months ago, I was unable to get more than a couple of days at a time.  For some periods I would call my sponsor every morning and binge every single day for weeks.  I was in that place they talk about in the Big Book - terror, bewilderment, frustration and despair.  As far as I was concerned the situation was hopeless. By mid-morning, I would say "What's the use?" and eat.  Not only was I fully in victim mode, but the food had me in a complete chokehold.  When we read How It Works in our meeting I often key in on the words cunning, baffling, powerful.  It's hard to find the words to fully describe how much control my eating addiction has when it's activated. As for the cunning aspect of it, I heard once at a meeting that the chains of my eating addiction were too soft to be felt until they were too hard to be broken.  It was completely baffling how I couldn't do something that I had been able to do in the past. Once at a meeting I told the group that I felt like I was in the ocean and everyone was tossing me life preservers, urging me to grab on and get on the boat.  I was utterly clueless as to my inability to grab on and save my life, despite my desperation.  Freeing myself took a lot of willingness, intervention-type help from people in the program and an act of God.

Some of the past few weeks I've felt like I was an abstinent robot.  I have done food part, turned off my head, and showed up for as much of life as I could, which wasn't much.  I'm still in hard core withdrawal, sleeping a lot, feeling achy, exhausted and overwhelmed. My body is under the stress of withdrawal, detox, losing weight, and carrying extra pounds.  It's also in shock because I'm only eating fresh fruit and vegetables and wholesome proteins.  I suppose I remember withdrawal before, but somehow going through it again is a rude awakening. Thank God I have not had many white knuckling incidents.  The worst was on day seven, when I was in my fourth grade classroom.  I had decided to binge and had the food heating in the microwave.  Someone from the program called me right at that moment, and I told her I was about to binge. Of course, she basically told me that wouldn't be a good idea, but somehow I feel she helped me tap into the part of me that was sick and tired of being sick and tired.  When I hung up the phone I felt all of the fight leave my body and surrender take its place.  That was a great moment.  You know what they say - it's always easy to find God - he's at the end of your rope. One thing I wanted to share was the mental retraining I've needed to stay away from that first bite.  There are many one-liners and slogans that surprise me every time they work!  They are so simple and are made up of such silly simple words, yet they are the most powerful weapons I have against relapse.  I believe they are gifts from my higher power and nothing short of miraculous. One slogan I've been using a lot is this too shall pass.  These four small words save my life.  When I have food thoughts, I say that.  Then a couple of hours later, I realize that I've had two hours of freedom from food and have forgotten the discomfort I'd had.  I treasure those two hours of freedom like they were gold. I'm very grateful for GreyNet. Thank you everyone for your sharing. 


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